It's been a little over a year since I first stepped behind a veil in my city and saw all that lay beyond it. My story is one of Jesus finding all that was lost inside of me. As I've walked along, the pieces of my heart scattered about, He has patiently walked with me, collecting every piece and putting it all back together in a way that I could never have done on my own. This past year, though....what Jesus has done in the past year has changed me, completely and irrevocably.
When I stepped behind that veil and saw not what but who was there, it left me without words. Jesus gripped my heart in such a fierce way that I could barely take it all in. The first time I visited a brothel, the first time I knelt on the street next to a drug addict, the first time I took the hand of a woman being trafficked and prayed over her...it all left me with a weight of grief that I thought might destroy me. I didn't know if I could do it, to be honest. I thought my heart might break under the pressure of grief. I was afraid the darkness might snuff out the light in me. Every time I stepped behind that veil, I would whisper the same thing...
"I don't know if I'm strong enough, Jesus."
"Eyes on me, Love," was always his reply.
So, I kept going. I kept putting one foot in front of the other and I kept my eyes on Jesus. I kept offering a smile, a sandwich, a cookie, a prayer. I kept doing all these little things that seemed so trifle compared to the demons of darkness that warred against me...and something began to happen. Jesus began doing something I didn't expect. He began pouring compassion into me for these fractured hearts I was encountering. I didn't know my capacity for compassion could expand so far. I didn't know how deep down the well of Jesus' love could go inside of me...
I didn't know how much it would change me to offer hope to fractured hearts.
The pull to these hearts became magnetic and I found that I couldn't stay away. I couldn't not weep for them. I couldn't not see them as orphans, seeking a father.
I couldn't not love them.
The surprises didn't stop there, though. The more I walked the streets of my city and looked these broken one's in the eyes - telling them of a better way, a hope beyond hope - the more alive my soul became in the spirit of God. Simply put, Jesus set me on fire for his heart.
He set me on fire.
I've learned much in all of these encounters, but it's been more than learning. I've been transformed. Fear has been replaced with fire and I find I can't help but be bold when proclaiming Jesus. I am often surprised by what He does through me because I know how impossible it once would have been. Me? Walking the streets of the inner city, offering Jesus to anyone who will listen? He is so mighty, friends. So very mighty.
My heart is rooted in these dark places, now. I yearn to be among the brokenhearted, the poor, the powerless. I yearn to break bread with them, to share in their sorrow...to show them Jesus in all of his splendor. I didn't know there could be so much joy in serving. I didn't know I would find such intimacy with my King just by putting shoes on a girl's feet or giving a child a sandwich. I didn't know that my own healing would go even deeper as I shared the heartache of the brokenhearted.
I didn't know that to love these really is to love Jesus.
To love Jesus is to love others and to love others is to embrace them exactly where they are. Grace has taught me a lot. I've learned, in all of this, that grace stays when nothing and no one else will. It's harder this way. The pain is felt and the tears are shed, but it is so worth it. It is worth it because in loving others, I've found a deeper love for Jesus. I no longer question if Jesus loves me - I know He does. What I've discovered in this journey so far is just how much capacity I have to love him back. With ever step I take into the dark places, every word I pen, every message I prepare and preach - with all of it - I find more capacity to love Jesus. Yet again, he leaves me amazed. Not only does he love me fiercely, he fills me with the capacity to love him back. It is breathtaking.
Had you told me, before, that I was about to receive the greatest gift in these dark places, I would have doubted. Yet I am here now, and I can tell you that I have encountered my King among these broken hearts in a way I never had before. I've found him in the secret places, I've seen his face in the eyes of the lonely. I've heard his voice in the cry of the forgotten. I've discovered my King in ways I could not have imagined, and that has been the most surprising gift of all...
finding my King among the fractured and forgotten.
Do you love him, friend? That is the question of the day. Be convinced of His love for you. He proved it by giving up his own life, conquering what you never could. You are his reward, the reason he said yes to the Cross. Now he asks that in return, you abandon yourself to him and his grace. Will you? I've found grace to be the most reliable of friends, the most intimate of counselors and the bravest of voices. If you abandon yourself to the grace of Jesus, he will set you on fire...and you will never be the same.
It's an adventure, this life of grace. I never knew it could be like this, but now that I know, there is no going back. I'll follow Jesus wherever he asks, and I'll trust his grace to lead me...always.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost, but now I'm found, was blind but now I see.